Move aimed at enhancing traceability in the supply chain
Recently a subsidiary of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, Lynx International, disclosed that blockchain technology had been successfully integrated into the cross-border logistics business of the company. Per Lynx International, the blockchain-based system assists in keeping track of relevant information pertaining to an imported shipment and this includes details on third party verification, inspection, customs, transport method and production.
?Although the concept of blockchain has only recently started to emerge, it has a very wide range of applications. We firmly believe that this is an Internet-based technology, not a tool for speculating on currencies,? said Lynx International’s technical leader, Tang Ren.
Trustless nature and security benefits
With a blockchain-based system, it is possible to retrieve and scrutinize the data once it has been recorded though that data cannot be modified. This immutability is what has led to the use of distributed ledger technology in virtual currencies. Additionally blockchain-based system also enjoy the trustless nature and security benefits that come with the technology.
The use of blockchain technology by Alibaba is however not an indication that the online retail giant has its eyes set on virtual currencies though. Last year in December the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, disclosed that while neither he nor the e-commerce giant had an interest in virtual currencies, the Chinese company was making investments in the blockchain technology arena. The announcement by Lynx is probably resulting from that investment.
Besides the logistics part of Alibaba?s online retail business, blockchain-based programs have been launched by the online retail giant in the food quality control and healthcare sectors. According to some reports in the media, the mobile app of Taobao now bears a link where customers can view the traceability information of items. This allows shoppers to tell whether what they are purchasing has been sourced from a legitimate supplier.
Rough estimates indicate that the details of over 30,000 goods that have been imported from ports such as Tianjin, Hangzhuo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai have already been logged into the blockchain system of Alibaba. According to Ren the information tracking process starts prior to the goods reaching the country.
Carrefour and Walmart
Alibaba is not the only retailer making use of the blockchain technology. French retailer Carrefour, has disclosed that it will make investments on blockchain-based solutions with a view to bolstering transparency. The French retailer intends to begin using the technology later this year in order to enhance product traceability and by extension food safety and quality. This will also eventually aid Carrefour in its digitization efforts in the grocery market. The French retailer intends to rollout an enhanced online platform in the next two years and the distributed ledger, food traceability, food quality and improved logistics will all make a valuable contribution.
Besides Carrefour and Alibaba another retailer that is using blockchain solutions to enhance its supply chain is Walmart. To develop these solutions aimed at creating a unique ledger which would be at the disposal of its suppliers, Walmart partnered with IBM. In one pilot program Walmart and IBM were able to reduce the tracking time of mango shipments to two seconds from several days thereby greatly enhancing efficiency.
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